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LJCPA gives thumbs down to Nautilus Street home and ADU project, citing height measurement issues

A plan for two new two-story single-family homes on Nautilus Street is depicted in a rendering.
(Courtesy of Stosh Podeswik)

For the second time in as many months, the La Jolla Community Planning Association vetoed the findings of one of its subcommittees during its May 5 meeting.

This time, the project in question calls for a coastal development permit to demolish a single-family residence and build two new two-story single-family homes with basements that would include junior accessory dwelling units within each unit at 735 Nautilus St., across from La Jolla High School.

Last month, LJCPA vetoed the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee’s decision in February to support a proposal to build a new 6,219-square-foot house at 2382 Via Capri Court.

In the Nautilus Street plan, the two units would be separated by six feet, with a motor court on the west side of the property that serves as a driveway and an entrance for both units. From the street, the project would appear to be one unit in front of the other instead of side by side.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association reviews plans for a development at 735 Nautilus St.
The La Jolla Community Planning Association reviews plans for a development at 735 Nautilus St., across from La Jolla High School.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

LJCPA’s Development Permit Review Committee voted 3-2 on March 15 that the project meets local building guidelines and that the committee could support its construction.

At the May 5 LJCPA hearing, however, trustees and the applicant disagreed on whether certain measurements are in line with San Diego city code.

Architect Stosh Podeswik said the height measurement includes the six feet of grade going from east to west, because the street slopes down.

“One of the reasons that this format works instead of the skinny homes [that are being built] is that these units can both see the view … and create a setback with the courtyard,” Podeswik said. He added that the aesthetics are consistent with homes in the area.

Consultant Rick Turner, also known as Allen Turner, told LJCPA that the project “would pass height certification for the city of San Diego.”

However, La Jollan Phil Merten submitted two lengthy letters to trustees arguing that the project, “being two stories above a partial basement, is quite a change for the street. The existing dwellings on either side are one story.”

Merten said the applicant measured the building height from the “proposed grade,” whereas “the [San Diego] municipal code says specifically that structure height is measured from proposed grade or existing grade, whichever is lower.” The existing grade, he said, “is substantially lower than the proposed grade.”

Merten said the municipal code indicates that “no portion of the building shall be more than 30 feet above the grade. In this case, it is 34½ feet above.”

Turner responded that “what happens in this case, it is difficult to portray the height limit on certain sections” and that he looked at a “plan view,” rather than the “section view” the trustees were seeing, “which gives you the true aspect of where the plumbline elevation is and the overall height. I don’t see where, when this gets constructed, that it would exceed the height limit.”

Given some lingering confusion and trouble viewing certain measurements in the applicant’s presentation, LJCPA trustee Larry Davidson said, “I would have a real problem approving this unless there were a drawing that showed the elevations we talked about, because this is either intentionally or unintentionally very hard to understand.”

Several trustees suggested the applicant return at a future meeting with additional information, but Podeswik declined and opted for a vote.

“This has been the most frustrating approval process I have been through,” he said. “I have been at the city to review these plans and they do not have the issues the people at this meeting seem to be having. … The city has reviewed this and there is no way this will go through the city review and be over height.”

He acknowledged that some measurements were “confusing” but assured the project is within applicable height limits.

Merten countered that staff members with the city “do not have the experience or knowledge to look closely at these issues. There are dozens of projects currently under construction in La Jolla that violate the municipal code.”

A motion that findings cannot be made to support the project because of the height measurements passed 12-3, with trustees Greg Jackson, Suzanne Baracchini and Helen Boyden opposing without comment.

LJCPA is considered an advisory group to the city, and its recommendation will be included as part of the city’s review of the project.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association meets May 5 on Zoom.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Other LJCPA news

Guardrail funding: While next fiscal year’s city budget is being finalized, Steve Hadley — representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla — said funding is expected to be available for a planned guardrail on the north side of Torrey Pines Road between Prospect Place and Coast Walk, where there currently is a white K-rail.

The City Council authorized using a $718,700 grant from the California Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement Program and will fund some of the remaining costs from the city budget.

Hadley said there is not a construction timeline but it is “on the budget radar.”

Signal timing: Following a request from LJCPA to have UC San Diego study signal timing along North Torrey Pines Road near the campus, the timing has been adjusted for a left-turn lane and “I’m hopeful you are seeing some relief at La Jolla Scenic North at Torrey Pines Road and are not having to sit at the lights for too long,” said Anu Delouri, UCSD assistant director of communications and community planning.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, likely online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆